Category: Intersectionality (Malmö, Nov. 2016)

Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – Opening Remarks

Design and Intersectionality: Material Production of Gender, Race, Class–and Beyond
by Ece Canlı and Luiza Prado de O. Martins

First of all, we would like to say that we are very glad and honoured to host this event with its exciting schedule and presenters, and we hope that we will have great discussions and exchange of ideas during these two days. Before starting the first panel session, we would like to introduce an overview about the symposium, starting with the driving forces that prompted us to organise this event, and then–since especially the name of the symposium is Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power–explaining a bit the concept of intersectionality, and its relation to design practice and politics.

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Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – Session One

Feathers of Hope: A Design Justice Case Study
by Una Lee

In the last decade, “design for social impact” has become a buzzword in the discipline. Yet all design has a social impact, and that impact has historically served the interests of those with greater economic and political power. Designers must become aware of all of their impacts, not just those that are intended to “make the world a better place.” This presentation will introduce the Design Justice Network, a community of design practitioners and community organizers who are urging the design field to engage in critical discourse about how this work perpetuates injustice, and how we might bring justice to design. It will outline the Principles for Design Justice, a collectively written and edited document that underpins the efforts of the Network, and will use these principles as a framework for understanding the design story behind Feathers of Hope: Justice and Juries, a community development initiative centred around Indigenous youth in Canada.

5000times: exploitative mechanisms within the design of smart high-tech products
by Isabel Mager

Design within globalised capitalism runs the risk of generating harm. In this discourse, the production of high-tech devices (smartphones, tablets, notebooks) serves as key example of such harmful effects. The designer is located at a critical point between reinforcing discriminative and inhumane mechanisms while fuelling the very demand for this mechanism to exist: consumption. The author’s study 5000times acts as a foundation for the discussion by conducting empiric experiments around the topic of productive industries and the human body within these. By beginning to de-assemble a high-tech device, a quest began into where and how the human hand has participated in the production of the device. The result of 5000times shows the amount of tasks, which are done manually along the assembly of high-tech products. Re-enacting these tasks as a designer originating from a privileged western context, represents the coherence, reliance and hence accountability of the designer towards the productive mechanism that is being used. The empirical and theoretical research into the topic of high-tech manufacturing unpacked the crucial amount of manual work and the devastating, discriminatory, and exploitative politics under which this work is happening. The study claims that product designers are responsible not only for the experience of the consumer but also for how those who make the designed product are affected by it.

Full paper available here.

Intersectional perspectives on intimate technology, solutionism, and privilege
by Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard

In this text, we discuss if and how an intersectional perspective on design may be critically practiced from a privileged position. More precisely, we ask how intersectional perspectives on race, gender and class may be useful in reflecting on and critically intervening in a privileged, Northern European culture. Our discussion is motivated by considerations into what impact culture and context have on the practice, representation, and reception of critique.

Full paper available here.

Debate (audio)
moderated by Pedro Oliveira

Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – Session Two

Why people do not rebel? Issues of self-marginalisation in design for mental health
by Paola Pierri

In this paper, I will take the opportunity of the Symposium organised by the Decolonising Design Group to explore what does applying a lens on intersectionality do to my practice and my research around issues of participation and agency in design. I will start by introducing my research interest and my current practice and reflecting on the issue of participation in design. I will then apply an intersectional lens to my thinking and my practice, working with people with mental health conditions, trying to reframe the issue of inclusion/exclusion through the work of Patricia Hill Collins and her conceptualisation of the ‘outsider within’. I will conclude my paper by reflecting on what is still missing and where the failures and frustrations are in my work in mental health at the moment, and present the areas that I am currently exploring as possible ways forward to improve the impact that my practice can have, by looking at how to politically link social suffering and power.

Full paper available here.

Intersectional Perspectives in the Context of South Asia
by Manahil Huda

South Asia’s, specifically Pakistan’s design dynamics are very unique since the culture is very different when compared to the rest of the world. In my paper and discussion I take two examples, one of Pakola (a green ice-cream soda flavored drink) and one of the laltain (Lantern) as an election symbol and discuss in their reference how design and politics influence each other in an intersectional manner, especially when an audience is oblivious of the power of design. The origins of the drink and the lantern; and concepts of class, nationalism, gender, and education level are discussed. The focus is to try to understand the ways in which power structures are defined in Pakistan and how do they address the common man with the help of design.

Full paper available here.

White Standard
by Márton Kabai

The White standard is a design research that manifests as a magazine with a map. It attempts to draw a line between the early physical anthropology until today’s beauty standards. This project was rises questions as: What is common between colonial skin color charts and today’s skin bleaching products? How whiteness counterparts with power, authority and maintains colonial inferiority that preserves the post-cold war world order. How advanced capitalism can justify and commercialize race and gender differences in favor of the white man? How commercial design becomes a propaganda machine and has a significant role of serving the actual power structure? How design can be used in order to be independent from commercial interest? The magazine presents 33 skin whitening products, advertisements and critical essays. The map shows how corporations and its brands take similar arrangement as it was at the colonial times, as if colonialism has never ended.

Debate (audio)
moderated by Danah Abdulla

Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – Session Three

Conflictual design artefacts reveal vertical power relationships
by Max Mollon

Contemporary issues of occidental society are multi-faceted and addressing them needs bringing multiple points of views around the table. However, making every voice heard is a challenge, especially voices in the margins. On the other hand, the concept of intersectionality allows one to consider how various categories – including sectarian ones as race, gender, age, ability… – simultaneously compose traits of one’s identity. Here, rather than focusing on how identity is constituted or intersections of various categories, I address “domination” as a common attribute to these vertical relationships. In fact, many of these oppressions remain silent, because of being untold, unthought-of or unknown. They remain embedded and hidden in everyday life and everyday objects. Indeed, human-made objects often support these states of power – as they involve many actors and assumptions in their making and using. But objects also allow for interference in the silence, opening a space for horizontal discussion. I argue that “Speculative and Critical Design” (SCD) artefacts have this potential when thought of as objects of “dissensus”.

The present text is a work in progress. Its main contributions are: a case study using a conflictual artefact to trigger participant responses, using SCD in a collective discussion context; empirical results; and the future research directions that emerged from them. These research leads – based on new connections between existing academic works – are open to discussion with the symposium members before further development. I argue that the case study does not directly avoid oppression to take place, neither does it unveil it publicly. Rather, it allowed me to spot it; it allowed the participants to talk about the conflictual artefact, but most of all it allowed them to talk to each other despite variable present states of power in the room. Based on this I briefly enumerate research directions and related literatures, under two main strategies: seating in- between; and breaching the norm. And I promote the use of the “dissensus” in “Participatory Design” contexts.

Full paper available here.

Design as Symbolic Violence: Reproducing the ‘isms’
by Joanna Boehnert and Dimeji Onafuwa

The concept of symbolic violence describes how priorities, values and even sensibilities are reproduced through cultural practices, processes and institutions. Through symbolic violence, individuals learn to consider unjust conditions as natural and even come to value customs and ideas that are oppressive. Feminist, race and anti-colonisation scholars and activists have described how patriarchy, colonialism and imperialism exist within oppressive structures – and also within cultural practices and artifacts that embed domineering ideologies in everyday life. Design functions as symbolic violence when it is involved with the creation and reproduction of ideas, practices, products and tools that result in structural and other types of violence (including ecocide). In this paper, we describe the theory of design as symbolic violence and present sexist, racist, classist and ecoist examples. Acknowledging that the various ‘isms’ are reproduced through design, we then consider how to address these problems by constructing a Framework for Allies in design.

Full paper available here.

Decolonising the Toilet
by Nadine Botha

The toilet shortage, effecting one third of the world’s population, has attracted a fair amount of scholarly and practice-based reflection without much gain. While this conversation centres on the waterborne sanitation system, a legacy of British colonialism used to include and exclude, the portable flush toilet or porta potty has, like its users, been ignored. Designed in the 1960s for the US leisure and camping market, in recent years this seemingly benign object, which has attracted no scholarly attention or critical reflection, has become a loathed, abject object leading political protest in Cape Town. If design is the process whereby an object acquires meaningful form, the portable flush toilet has been redesigned not by a designer but by social, legal, political and cultural forces. By reading the city’s ongoing toilet wars through the lens of this recast design object, it becomes clear how what is sometimes considered the uncompromising tactics of social justice movements are actually epistemic intersectional challenges to the dominant logic of modernity/coloniality. Returning to the global toilet shortage, it is through this convivial chaos that new ways of being can be uncovered.

Debate (audio)
moderated by Tristan Schultz

Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – Invited Talks

NOTE: Audios only.

Gender, Profession, Age and Class: Employing an Intersectional Approach in Research on the Designer’s Work
by Pinar Kaygan

TBD: Decolonizing Design in the Canadian Context
by Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall

A lexicon of concepts? How do we convert the Insights of practice into politically actionable Strategies that draw on the capabilities of designing?
by Clive Dilnot

moderated by Mahmoud Keshavarz, Ece Canlı, and Luiza Prado de O. Martins

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